Tobacco hornworms shown to accumulate
Each year, C&E News publishes hundreds of articles on important research advances in chemistry. In their annual Chemistry Year in Review the C&E News editors reveal their choices for some of the “superlative achievements” in chemistry that were featured during the year. This review also provides a way to reflect on the ramifications of these developments.
CEINT research on nanomaterials in the food chain, lead by Paul Bertsch at the University of Kentucky, was selected for inclusion in C&E News' Chemistry Year in Review 2011.
The CEINT funded team showed that gold nanoparticles transfer from a pre-exposed primary producer (tobacco plants) to a primary consumer (horn worm caterpillar) (C&EN, March 14, page 44). More importantly, it was discovered they that the concentration of nanoparticles in the caterpillar was much higher than in the plants they fed on, a process known as biomagnification (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es103031a). Thus, Bertsch and colleagues provided the first evidence that nanoparticles can build up in a terrestrial food chain. Manufacturers are incorporating nanoparticles into hundreds of widely available consumer products, such as plastics, cosmetics and clothing. Understanding those properties of manufactured nanoparticles that control their bioavailability will ultimately help guide the design of safer materials.